A panel of Latino media experts recently discussed Media Matters’ reports that Latinos are underrepresented in and marginalized from political discussions on cable news networks, and highlighted how the trend -- which applies even when the issues discussed affect them disproportionately -- has significant electoral consequences. As the panel explained, under-representation can fuel xenophobia and lend false credence to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s avoidance of Spanish-language media and the Republican Party’s decision to ignore the Latino vote.
During the October 3 panel hosted by Media Matters, Hispanic media expert Cristina López presented the findings from numerous studies that analyzed Latino representation and inclusion in news media and showed that siloing Latinos to the single issue of immigration has excluded them from a majority of discussions on other issues that also affect them significantly. López explained that such exclusion means “Latinos don’t get to participate in discussions even when the topics genuinely affect them -- when they are the protagonists of the stories, they are not invited to comment.” This is illustrated by a Media Matters analysis which found that only 11.5 percent of the guests brought on cable news networks to comment on Trump’s attacks on federal Judge Gonzalo Curiel’s Hispanic heritage were Latino. Another study showed that Latinos were also marginalized during cable news conversations about the Orlando, FL, massacre at the Pulse gay nightclub, even though the majority of the victims were Hispanic. Media Matters has previously reported that Latinos are consistently underrepresented in the media and mostly confined to commenting on immigration when invited to appear on political talk shows.
Panelists explained that media under-representation has significant consequences. Veteran journalist Fernando Espuelas remarked that “media creates reality,” and therefore, when audiences don’t see Hispanics discussing political issues in the media, “there’s a point at which even non-prejudicial, non-racist [people] start to be unable to see Hispanics in that context.”
CNN’s Maria Cardona added that the consequence of a dearth of Latino voices in the media is that “it becomes so much easier [for] the kind of vitriol and hatred that Donald Trump is spewing to become normalized because the outrage is just not enough” when Latinos “don’t have the appropriate representation across the board, on all of the shows:”
The problem extends beyond Latino representation in English-language media. When Latinos are siloed from important political discussions on cable news networks, it can allow major party candidates -- like Donald Trump -- to virtually ignore Spanish language news networks and fuel a rift between the rapidly growing and increasingly important Latino electorate and the Republican Party. Voto Latino’s Maria Teresa Kumar explained that Trump’s absence is a big deal due to the key “role that Spanish-language media plays in the household” for Hispanics in the United States. Kumar further explained that Spanish-language media companies are “committed to helping [Latinos] navigate America,” by providing them with tools that better allow them to participate in American democracy. An example of this is Univision’s voter registration effort. And yet, despite the importance Spanish-language networks have in many Latino households, Donald Trump has repeatedly ignored their interview requests.